3 min read

More of us are working from home than ever before, with distraction near at hand. How do we work remotely well?

Whether you work at a small school or for a global corporation, working remotely is more and more common—and now more than ever. For those of us who tend to worry about the future, staying focused and approaching our work consistently and with due diligence is no easy task!

Of course, this is old news. Evagrius, fourth century monk, examined a condition that would overtake man through a pattern of destructive thoughts, eventually leading to despondency—a state of listlessness and inability to perform one’s duties in life. This rejection of time and reality has been coined the “noonday devil.” Whether or not you suffer from despondency, it’s not hard to imagine that in isolation, we look for ways to escape.

Below are some ways to save your soul working remotely, and if you’d like to invest more in your remote work consider reading Remote: Office Not Required, if not Evagrius himself.

  • To the extent possible, have a daily routine. Begin and conclude your day around the same time.
  • Set firm barriers with yourself about working after hours. If you must work after hours, commit to conclude by a specific time before you begin. If the work can wait—and on most days, it can, even if it doesn't feel like it—wait until the next day. It’s easy to fall for the illusion of getting ahead by working later and later when your computer is near at hand. It is a trap.
  • Take a lunch break away from your desk and a couple shorter breaks during the day (walk outside to get the mail, sit on your front porch for a few minutes, visit with your spouse and children, make a cup of tea in the afternoon, etc.). A change of scenery can work wonders. 
  • Have a dedicated work space—an office, ideally—that is separate from your living space to create separation between your personal life and professional life, which can be a challenge when working from home. If possible, choose a space with a window that allows for an abundance of natural light. 
  • Relatedly, commit to working in the space you’ve set aside for work and not in other parts of your home, like the dining room table, bedroom, or living room. 
  • Have the tools you need, like a dual monitor or adjustable standing desk converter. Investing in the right resources will go a long when you have to be in the same place for a full day. If possible, have a comfortable chair in your office for guests and for yourself, should you want to retreat from your desk for a time to read for work or leisure.
  • Welcome spontaneous interruptions from your spouse, children, roommates, and friends. You’re working from home—these occasional interruptions are inevitable, and you’ll look back on them with fondness later even if they are inconvenient at the time. That doesn’t mean not to let your family or roommate be aware of your meeting schedule or important conversations for when your house may need to be a little quieter than usual.

A subtle but pernicious challenge with working remotely, especially among ambitious and committed colleagues, is working too much and burning out. These practices can help you succeed and sustain yourself while working remotely.

Consider the natural conversations that occur in an office setting and endeavor, to the extent possible, to find similar opportunities at home with friends and family.  Work from a local coffee shop or library for an afternoon. Getting out of the house, seeing other people, working from a different setting, can help put things in perspective and provide a boost, even for people who may be more introverted.

We are not made to be alone, and in our version of being a secular monk, forced or otherwise, there are ways to battle the “noonday devil,” not if but when he comes for you.


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